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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

BOTH the Ministry of Children and Family Development ... and some parents ... are failing miserably when it comes to applying those standards



Recently, two stories in the news, caught my attention.  One was in the Metro News, entitled Investing longer in teens leaving B.C. care would more than pay for itself, which stated:

You have to spend money to make money, and that adage may apply to foster care as much as it does to business, according to a new study. For the nearly one thousand 19-year-olds who “age out” of B.C. foster care system every year, an economic report released Monday has found that spending just $57 million in supporting those youth until age 24 would more than pay for itself — and potentially even save taxpayers nearly five times that amount.




The second was in the Tyee, entitled Life Skills Program for Former Foster Kids Seeks Boost, made a couple of comments I found both interesting, and sad:



... when life skills coach Linda Liss’s most motivated client, a young First Nations woman who had aged out of foster care, joined a gang, Liss knew it was the child welfare system, not the young woman, that had really failed.

... she has been working to get the post-foster care support program for young women off the ground.

... the society is pioneering a proposed four-year life skills “apprenticeship” program for young women between 19 and 29 with experience in government care ...

... in her experience both as a former foster parent, and as a life skills coach working with women from the child welfare system, she’s seen former foster kids fail again and again to make the transition to a healthy adulthood ...

... it is very well recognized that there is a deficit of services providing a continuum of care in the community...




NOW ... before anyone accuses me of bashing foster parents, let me say from personal experience, I have seen both side of the Foster Care System. And in spending time on the Foster Connections website, I believe the vast majority of Foster Parents come from a philosophy as expressed by a couple in the Kootenay's:



Fostering is a lifestyle choice that can change the outcome of future generations. We have the power to give children hope and encourage them on their journey. The immense support from our social workers and resources in the area proves to me that the goal for these children is to be the best that they can be.



So where do the problems begin?

"Hell even the SPCA has higher standards, and will outright refuse to allow you to have one of the animals in their care, unless you can meet specific standards"

Let me say I believe they come right from the start, with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and the totally unworkable standards staff must work under.



The Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA), inacted early in 1996, is the province’s legislation for child protection and for many of the support services used by families. (it begins on pg 62)



The Act states, and I quote, "Children are entitled to be protected from abuse, neglect and harm or threat of harm."  It further states that parents have the right and obligation to care for their children.  A few other points of note include:

• A family is the preferred environment for the care and upbringing of children, and the responsibility for the protection of children rests primarily with the parents.

• If, with available support services, a family can provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child, support services should be provided.



So what does that mean?  Well the first three principles concern society’s basic (minimum?) values regarding children and families.  They are that all children have the right to be safe and protected from harm ... and that parents have the right and obligation to care for their children



Let me quote further from Section 4 of Act (page 64), under the heading of Best Interests of the Child:


(1) Where there is a reference in this act to the best interests of a child, all relevant factors must be considered in determining the child’s best interests, including for example:

(a) the child’s safety;

(b) the child’s physical and emotional needs and level of development;

(c) the importance of continuity in the child’s care;

(d) the quality of the relationship the child has with a parent or other person and the effect of maintaining that relationship;

(g) the effect on the child if there is delay in making a decision.



Okay ... now comes the part that is going to get me in trouble with at least a few people. 



BOTH the Ministry of Children and Family Development ... and some parents ... are failing miserably when it comes to applying those standards!  Hell even the SPCA has higher standards, and will outright refuse to allow you to have one of the animals in their care, unless you can meet specific standards. 



All adoption applicants are carefully screened to ensure our animals are placed in the best possible home. BC SPCA animals are matched with guardians based on their general lifestyle and the type of care they can provide. To some it may seem rigorous but we want to ensure adopters understand the commitment they are embarking on.

                                    

Many people like the idea of a pet or can't resist a cute puppy or kitten, but don't think about the changes it will make in their life. Pets are companions. They live with us and depend on us for all of their needs. This is a great responsibility and one that should not be taken lightly. The kind of relationship you build with your pet is dependent on the commitment you are willing to make.



Adopting a homeless animal from the BC SPCA is a rewarding experience. It is also a commitment for the animal's lifetime



Whether it's a single parent, or a two parent family, the Ministry of Children and Family Development allows them to have children in their care, and continue to have children born to them, that do not even come close to the standards the Ministry has committed to under the Child, Family and Community Service Act, for the basic care and safety of children in our province.  This eventually leads to, after years of neglect, and chance after chance to parent, children being removed and then placed into foster care.  Many times the same parent(s) who has had a child (children) removed, simply has another one, and the cycle repeats.



Where do these children go? 



Well if there are responsible family members, the Ministry will try to place these children in their care.  If not, well sadly they then go into foster care, and as I mentioned initially, in most cases to a caring and loving family.



And what kind of child are many of them by this point ... after often being abused, exploited to get a welfare cheque, not provided proper nourishment and a safe living environment, or an environment for getting a good education?  They are seriously scarred ... afraid of adults ... and believing only they can protect themselves (to the limited extent they are able) ... and often rebellious to all authority.



Why?  Because it has let them down!



So, despite the fact that Foster Parents are to provide comprehensive life skills: including:

self-advocacy skills;

interpersonal relationships;

self-care habits that promote personal safety and well-being;

problem-solving and decision-making;

independent living skills;

social skills;

traditional cultural activities;

exploring vocational opportunities;

accessing and using community resources and services;

use and value of money; and

communication skills



AND ... despite the fact that when aging out of foster care, the child should be able to respond with a yes to the following partial checklist, most / many of these troubled youth do not:



... does the youth feel ok about talking to you, their caregiver, about any questions they may have about better preparing themselves for their future?

... does the youth have both a savings and chequing account?

... has the youth learned the benefits of saving money?

... does the youth have a learner’s permit? www.icbc.com/driver-licensing/id

... does the youth have a resume? A template for a cover letter?

... would the youth be able to explain how they would look for work?

... if the youth is planning on taking post-secondary education or vocational training, are they aware of the Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) program?

... if the youth is planning on taking post-secondary education or vocational training, are they aware of the Youth Educational Assistance Fund (YEAF)

... is the youth aware of how to apply to for a grant or bursary or student loan if they want to go to post-secondary school?

... does the youth have a record of all the doctors/dentists they have seen?

... does the youth have a regular family doctor / dentist?

... is the youth aware of how MSP works when they become an adult?

... if the youth is 18 years old, have they completed an Income Tax return so that they will be able to receive GST/HST credit and be eligible for premium assistance when they take out their own MSP?

... when they get their own MSP does the youth know that they will need to register for “Fair PharmaCare”?

...if the youth is taking any prescribed medication, do they know how it will be paid for once they

turn 19 and leave your care?



These troubled youth, left for too long in the care of incompetent / uncaring parents, before ending up in foster care, are the reason we now have young adults on the streets, in gangs, addicted to drugs, and without an education or basic life-skills.



Either those at the top of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) better get their act together, and start applying the Child, Family and Community Service Act, which again states, "Children are entitled to be protected from abuse, neglect and harm or threat of harm."  ... or ... the whole works should be fired for due cause, with NO financial benefits accrued to them on their leave taking.



It's either that ... or we are going to be spending untold millions on these children mentioned in the Metro News and Tyee stories, trying to provide them (better late than never) with the life skills they should have received as children growing up.



In Kamloops, I'm Alan Forseth.

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